WASHINGTON (AP) — Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday that if confirmed as CIA director, he would arrive alone at the agency's Langley, Va., headquarters, leaving his Army uniform and extensive military staff behind, as he shifts to the head of the "silent service."
Petraeus assured senators that he will not impose a military hierarchy at the CIA and will encourage a culture of constructive give and take.
"I wanted this job," he said, and discussed it with the Obama administration for months.
Petraeus also assured senators that he could be objective about the wars he has just run, saying he can "grade my own work" and provide the president "the most accurate view possible."
Petraeus said he would work to sharpen the CIA's analysis, as he had sometimes found it too negative and, at other times, too positive. He blamed that on the agency's reliance on data collected six to eight weeks prior to the date of the report. He said he hopes to speed that up.
The most recent U.S. intelligence assessment of Afghanistan found little progress in key parts of Petraeus' counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan. The CIA had a major hand in preparing the assessment.
The report found that special operations night raids, combined with village-by-village security operations, have shown more lasting progress in undermining the Taliban and their influence than attempts by conventional military forces to drive out militants, according to three U.S. officials who have read the analysis and described it to The Associated Press.
The assessment, issued in February, does not favor one strategy over another. But the information gives ammunition to those who support Vice President Joe Biden's special operations-centered counterterrorism strategy over Petraeus' backing of traditional counterinsurgency. It was seen as proof for some that the additional conventional forces Petraeus championed made little impact on the overall campaign, and a slam against parts of the strategy designed by its architect, just as he seeks to lead the intelligence service.
Other U.S. officials argue that the success of special operations troops would not have been possible without the logistical support from conventional forces in territory that the U.S. clawed back from insurgents in large-scale operations. The estimate says progress has been made in special operations-led counterinsurgency projects, not just raids, the officials said.
Petraeus and his predecessor, retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, helped bring about an increase in special operations forces to roughly 10,000. That includes about 4,000 elite "direct action" troops who hunt militants, and 6,000 others, such as Green Berets and Marine special operators, who train village security forces.
As for the lack of progress in some areas noted in the analysis, it's rare that the picture presented to the public by a general running a war matches the private advice and criticism given to him by the intelligence services.
If confirmed, Petraeus would become the 20th director of the CIA, succeeding Leon Panetta, who has been confirmed as defense secretary. As CIA chief, Panetta had won over would-be detractors by championing agency causes on Capitol Hill, such as arguing against the prosecution of CIA interrogators for carrying out enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding.
Panetta faced an agency that initially saw the former congressman and Clinton administration official as an unknown quantity, fearing he did not know enough about the field to direct its staff and operations. CIA staff now worry about Petraeus because they know him as a general they did not always agree with, current and former intelligence officials said.
Panetta won the agency's trust and many internal admirers by fighting for them on Capitol Hill and at the White House. In the most famous instance, he won a clash with former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair over who would appoint intelligence chiefs at U.S. embassies.
Petraeus signaled that he planned to continue Panetta's efforts to share intelligence around the government and to give analysts real-world experience. He said he'd also maintain close ties with Congress, as Panetta had, and has told staff he'd continue Panetta's tradition of meeting once a month with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
At the Senate hearing he also said he'd be "reaching out, and reaching down" to agency employees to get to know them.
With a wink at the agency's job at winning over spies — and its record of trying to co-opt its leaders — Petraeus said he'd hold a meeting at the main auditorium the day he arrives and tell the audience, "You all should know that I am here to recruit you ... and I know you are here to recruit me."
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